Towards the end of the summer holidays, I had the idea that I would like to see if it would be possible to do some international rowing. I had no idea just how well it would all eventually turn out. I put a small rowing application through to the Olympic Committee of my home country, Bolivia. After a few weeks of tedious waiting, with people telling me all the time not to get my hopes up, I finally got a written letter from the South American Rowing Committee of FISA – the International Federation of Rowing Associations (rowing’s equivalent to FIFA for football).
After all that waiting and all the anxiety I was relieved to hear this news. Bolivia immediately organised my kit and sent me lists of all the events I could enter and training camps I could attend. Since I was the only rower for Bolivia, I would have to go in a single scull and I was yet to have a coach.
I really felt I needed to immerse myself in this while I could, so I was overjoyed when I heard that the School would allow me to miss a week of term to go to a training camp as a representative of my country.
I woke up with a sore back at around 5am. My taxi took me to Manchester Airport while it was still dark and I boarded the plane for my ten-hour flight to Atlanta. Then I changed planes in Atlanta and took a seven-hour flight to Lima in Peru. Fortunately the flights were paid for by FISA.
I met a FISA group arriving from all around South America. In Peru the top female and male rowers (generally two per country) and a coach were brought by FISA. The rowers were all under 18. I met other rowers and coaches from Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The head coach of the whole camp was the coach of the Mexican national team.
Due to unsafe weather conditions ocean currents in Lima, the camp and the upcoming Bolivian games were moved to Albufera Medio Mundo, which is three hours north of Lima along the Pacific Coast. We stayed in bungalow type rooms and I shared a room with people from Ecuador, Chile and Brazil. The boats were beautiful new Empachers and Wintechs, courtesy of the Peruvian Government. These were the Ferraris of the rowing world.
Then training started with a 30-minute ergo test and a five-kilometre run on the beach.
Tuesday – Thursday
We woke up at six in the morning to do an hour of stretching and fitness circuits. Then after breakfast we rowed for about 18 kilometres and at last we had lunch. We rowed about three times a day on average. In the evenings when it was cool, we took advantage of our terrain and ran up and down sand dunes for resistance training. Some were almost two storeys high!
Finally on Friday I said my goodbyes. I had made a lot of friends in the South American rowing community and I had been invited to row in places from Brazil to Argentina. The rest of the group would stay for a week or so more and then compete. I missed the initial competition, but I have been invited to row in the South American Championships this spring in my single scull. I am happy with the progress and knowledge I took away and the result of my efforts. But I am most pleased with the number of amazing people I met and the new environment I was immersed in.